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  • Bedford Driver

Turns | Steering | Intersections

Updated: 43 minutes ago


There’s a lot going on when you’re first learning to drive especially when it comes to making turns. Your right foot is working the pedals, both hands are steering, and your eyes are constantly scanning the driving environment. It takes the same level of coordination as a drummer in a band or a hockey player on the ice.

A drummer uses their left hand to play the snare drum, right hand and left foot for the high hat, and their right foot for the base drum. And that is just to play one instrument by itself. Add in a band, and now you must not only maintain rhythm and coordination but they must also maintain sync and flow with the rest of the band. Similarly in traffic a driver learns how to control the vehicle through the brake pedal, accelerator pedal, and steering wheel, in order to have a smooth turn.

Lars Ulrich Drum Solo

Take a rolling turn for example as they are one of the more difficult maneuvers to perfect with good flow. First you approach the turn at a safe speed for how sharp it is while maintaining a steady pressure on the brake or gas pedal depending on whether it’s an uphill or downhill turn. The turn signal must be activated before you apply the brakes, then the steering wheel must be turned smoothly while maintaining seamless flow and control. All of these steps are performed at specific times and together during a rolling turn so it can be a lot all at once. Like everything in driving the trick is to slow the turns down and perfect them with good technique and then speed them up once perfected. Remember that for rolling turns you can shoulder check 200 - 300 feet out from the turn. This will ensure that if there is a cyclist beside you in your blind spot you will catch it before you begin turning and possibly hitting the cyclist. Shoulder checking well before your rolling turn also makes it much easier to focus on the turn and the intersection as you approach.

To perfect rolling turns you can focus on just the approach speed for the turn and then once that is perfected you can add in hand over hand steering. If adding in the hand over hand steering causes anything else to suffer remove the HOH steering and go back to perfecting the approach speed again until the turn is smooth and controlled. It's easier to perfect turns at a slower speed, then gradually increase to faster speeds.

Over time and with practice all of these steps and techniques will fuse together and become second nature for a you which will then allow you to focus on spotting hazards and exploring the driving environment around you. Slow it down break it apart and perfect that flow.

Timing Turns

How To Properly Use Your Turn Signals: How Far Ahead Should You Signal, When To Use Them, And Why

Turn signals are one of only two ways that drivers have to communicate with each other while in traffic. When other drivers around you know what you're doing that makes you and them safer.

Turning Tips

  • When entering an intersection to perform a left turn there will be drain grates or utility hole covers. They are centered in the intersection so if you drive over them as you make your turn you will be perfectly lined up in your lane as you complete the turn.

  • Slow down gradually for rolling turns and shoulder check 300 feet before the intersection as you approach so that you can then focus on the intersection. This gives you more time to react if there is a cyclist or pedestrian in your blind spot.

  • For stopped turns you’ll want to stop then move out gradually to side look left and right then shoulder check and go.

  • If the intersection is bumpy then your turn will be bumpy. That’s normal.

  • If your turns aren’t smooth slow them down.

Check Yourself Before You Make Your Move

Always check your blind spot by quickly glancing over the shoulder of whichever direction you are turning.


For the best steering control you should hold the wheel from the outside with thumbs resting on the wheel. This is how you have to hold the steering wheel on the test with your thumbs resting on the outside of the wheel. Once you have your fulls you can put your thumbs on the inside of the wheel as most steering wheels will have slots that are intended to allow you to rest your thumbs.

Never "hook" a steering wheel from the inside. If the airbag goes off it will break your arm and possibly worse.

Pro tip: You can adjust the playback speed of the video below to slow it down. This will make it easier to see what my hands are doing while demonstrating hand over hand steering. Don’t get discouraged with this because it takes a bit of practice. The key is to take your time. A simple way to remember this technique is you lift the hand of whichever side you are turning so the other can pass under with the steering wheel.

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Hand Over Hand Steering

Steering Tips

  • Sometimes when turning right from a stop you might find that you are turning too wide. This is likely because you are accelerating a little too much and not steering soon enough. Slow it down and steer earlier.

  • 10 and 2 is the easiest hand position for hand over hand steering but 9 and 3 is always the best position for most driving because if something goes wrong you will be able to turn the wheel more than 180 degrees to correct or react.

  • If the turn is not a perfect 90 degree turn then hand over hand steering will be awkward or may not work perfectly. You can make the turn a perfect 90 by driving into the intersection slightly further before cutting for your turn.

  • Cule Sacs are the easiest place to practice hand over hand steering.

  • Let the steering wheel slide back on both of your hands as it returns to maintain control.

  • You want to always have your hands above the center of the steering wheel as much as possible so that they never get locked between your legs and the wheel.

  • If you accelerate out of the turn to help the steering wheel spin back you must let the wheel spin on your hands. Trying to control the steering wheel as you accelerate will cause you to lose control.

  • You can put a piece of colored tape at the top center of your steering wheel to help you see when the wheel is straight.

Hand Over Hand Steering Tips

For left hand turns you can use the drain covers in the center of an intersection to mark the point at which you start to steer for your turn. This will save you a lot of trouble.

Practicing Hand Over Hand Steering While Listening To Jazz Music

Counter Steering can help you recover from a skid. Just turn your wheels in the same direction of the skid.

Counter Steering can help you recover from a skid. Just turn your wheels in the same direction of the skid.

This video is more specific to race track driving but the concepts of how to control a vehicle in a turn are mostly the same.

The Difference Between Oversteer and Understeer

Braking and Torque Steer

Why We Think Tesla's New Steering Yoke Shows Little Benefit

This is what’s possible when you practice; Travis Pastrana Shows Us How To Steer


Intersections in traffic are a lot like the internet in that they are the one place that all drivers are forced to interact and communicate with one another. Sometimes it goes good and sometimes it can go bad.

If an emergency vehicle approaches with its lights or sirens on just stay put so that they can find a path around you.

You can turn right on a red light after you come to a full stop. In this video we are turning right at a red light. The vehicles coming from the left through the intersection have just passed through a 70 km/hr zone which reduces to 50 km/hr before the intersection. The student begins to start the turn when a car races through the intersection over the speed limit. I am familiar with this area and was expecting that this might happen. This is one of the million reasons why it's so important to be familiar with any area you drive in.

Intersection near miss

Whenever you turn onto the road you have to always enter into the closest lane to you and then switch if required. In the below video the student turns into oncoming traffic after I told them to turn into the closest lane to them. I laughed and applauded them for listening to my instructions but then reminded myself to word those instructions differently next time :)

Stay in the lane you're in until you are completely through the intersection. There are many drivers at intersections and everyone is trying to figure out who is doing what. So when you are consistant and predictable AND use your signal lights, everyone around you knows what you're going to do.

It's illegal to change lanes at an intersection.

Talk about an adrenaline dump. Stay in your lane through the intersection

Getting passed at a red light by CPA. You can expect this type of behavior in traffic because many motorists don't have time to obey the law.

Stops Signs

Stop before the line. If there is no line stop before the sign.

It can be confusing when you first perform a turn from a stop. The image below shows how to break the turn apart into a step by step process. Remember that the shoulder check is the very last thing you do before you make your move and go. If you are stopped at the stop sign and the car in front of you proceeds through you still have to do a full stop at the line even if you are already stopped.

Some stop signs are harder to notice than others. They can be faded or blocked by overgrown trees and bushes. The stop sign below is one that students commonly come close to driving through. There are areas around Halifax like this where an abnormal amount of drivers will run stop signs. This area looks like a bit of a tunnel which I think causes many drivers to miss the sign.

Millwood Drive in Lower Sackville is another notorious area where students consistently miss stop signs. Some of the signs are faded and others are installed directly behind trees and utility poles so students usually don't see them until the last second.

There are a lot of signs missing and or covered by trees in Halifax. It's very important to be familiar with the areas that you're driving in so that you can catch these ahead of time. On lessons I started photographing some of the blocked and missing signs and I am finding that after I post these photos on Twitter the issues usually get fixed.

The residents around HRM that are clearing bushes and trees from traffic signs are literally heroes in the eyes of the students. This one is Beaumont Dr in Sackville.

Chapais Drive is also a lot safer now thanks to whoever trimmed the bush.

When you stop behind another vehicle you should be able to see the tires of the vehicle in front of you and a little bit of the pavement. An easier way to think of it is always leave a car length to ensure you have enough space. If you get rear ended while sitting still you won't get pushed into the vehicle in front of you. If you are ever the last vehicle in a stopped line of traffic you will want to keep an eye on your mirrors in case a vehicle is approaching at a high rate of speed behind you. There have been numerous fatal accidents in Nova Scotia over the past few months due to vehicles being rear ended in construction zones by inattentive drivers.

The Safe Distance To Stop Behind A Vehicle At A Traffic Light Or Other Line Of Stopped Cars

Lights Out At Intersections; Stay frosty

If the lights are out at an intersection at night you should not only be vigilant but also a bit paranoid. Many of the motorists travelling through the intersection will not even realize that there is an intersection there and will not stop. Note that none of the traffic lights in Nova Scotia have any kind of backup lighting or reflective tape for these types of situations.

Lights out at intersections

Lights out at intersections at night

Never change lanes at or near an intersection. Traffic lights, crosswalks, and roundabouts are all intersections.

I used to ride a sport bike and one thing I can tell you is you have to ride like everyone else in traffic is trying to kill you. In the video below the rider is approaching an intersection at what appears to be too fast a speed. Motorcycles are a lot smaller than cars making them much harder to see. All the more reason for motorcyclists to ride at the speed limit.

Never speed up at an intersection

Green Lights

Left turns on solid green lights

You have to yield to oncoming traffic when waiting to turn left on a solid green light. Left turns on solid green lights will be the most dangerous thing you will do while driving.

How To Make Safe Left Turns At Intersections

  • SOLID GREEN - You can turn left on a solid green light but yield the right-of-way to oncoming traffic driving straight through the intersection.

  • FLASHING GREEN - You have the right-of-way to turn left right or continue straight.

  • GREEN ARROW - You have the right of way in the direction of the arrow.

Left Hand Turns At Intersections On Solid Green Lights; Take your time!

How to Turn Left at Intersections - Unprotected Left Turns

Intersection tips

  • Never trust anyone’s signal light. Wait until the vehicle actually slows down.

  • Stop at the stop line or the sign if there is no line.

  • If you make a mistake at an intersection, just wave and smile.

  • Always scan an intersection from left to right as you approach it to ensure no one is running the red light. This is extremely important and is one of the critical aspects of any road test.

  • Never change lanes or speed up at an intersection.

  • The first vehicle in line waiting to turn left should be in the intersection on a solid green light while keeping the steering wheel straight.

  • Stay in the lane you chose before the turn while you make your turn. You can change lanes once the turn is completed.

Red Lights

Red Light Runners In Halifax

  • STEADY RED - You can make a right turn at a red light after you come to a stop.

  • FLASHING RED - Means the same as a Stop sign.

Cameras on, but nobody watching; newly installed cameras used for traffic sensors

Notice how as I turn left from the Esso on HP Rd onto Gatehouse Run that the light is already green. A car drives through the intersection on a legit red light narrowly missing the white SUV that was turning left. The SUV turned into the left lane thankfully. Back in the day when I lived in Red Deer every single intersection had a red light camera. I never once ever saw a driver run a red or even temp a yellow light. If a they did run a red light they would simply receive a bill in the mail. Everyone behaved safely.

Yellow Lights

There are a number of ways that we can read traffic lights as we approach intersections which can help with figuring out if the lights will change or not. Watch the pedestrian light because most times it has a countdown once pedestrians are no longer able to cross. Most times when the countdown finishes the lights will turn yellow unless there are no vehicles or pedestrians waiting at the intersection. If there are vehicles or pedestrians waiting at the intersection the light cycle resets.

  • STEADY YELLOW - Be prepared to stop. A steady yellow light means the traffic signal is about to turn red.

  • FLASHING YELLOW - Drive with caution and only stop if you have to.

  • Stop for a yellow light unless you are too close to the intersection to stop safely. In that case drive cautiously through the intersection.

  • Never speed up for a yellow light to “beat” the red light.

Yellow lights and committing

Yellow lights are hard to judge at first but a good practice is to imagine any stale green light you approach is going to turn yellow. Anticipate the change and ask yourself where you think the point of no return is. There are many tricks you can use to read the traffic lights at intersections. Look at the photo below. It shows an orange hand signal which indicates to pedestrians not to cross because the lights will soon change, and it also shows that there are 10 seconds left before the light will go yellow. Also note that if there are no pedestrians or vehicles waiting at the lights then they won't change. If I approach an intersection and notice that there is no orange hand but I see the white pedestrian symbol on the light then I know that the light is not changing anytime soon because the countdown still has to take place.

You can also use the solid white line which is painted between the lanes at the intersection to judge where your commitment point is. This line indicates that drivers shouldn't change lanes at an intersection and it's a perfect tool to use in order to figure out when to commit. If you are at or close to the speed limit then when you reach the start of this line you will most times be able to proceed through the light. Don't just make it a policy to stop every time. One of my students was practicing and stopped for a yellow light that she shouldn't have stopped for. Then she got stuck in the intersection after the light went red and a road rage incident took place. Be confident.

Judging Yellow lights

Arrows are the best

When you get a green arrow light that means you can only turn in the direction that the arrow is pointing. No other vehicles or pedestrians are allowed in the intersection at this time because it's a protected turn. All other traffic has to wait for their light. The driver of the vehicle in the below video is anticipating their green light but then mistakes the green arrow for a solid green light and drives straight through the intersection.

GREEN ARROW LIGHT - All traffic facing this signal may proceed but only in a direction indicated by an arrow and yield the right of way to pedestrians.

Intersections Playlist


Cool Student Driver stickers now available

One of my students recently experienced a road rage incident while practicing. These stickers keep other drivers behind you chill while you're trying to learn. You would be amazed at how many drivers respond positively to these stickers and sometimes will follow even further back.

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